An abscess is an inflamed and infected pocket of pus in the skin. It is often called a boil. Incision (cut) and drainage is a procedure to drain pus from an abscess.
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Drainage of an abscess is the preferred treatment to clear an abscess. It is often used if the abscess is large, growing, painful, or not improving on its own.
Do not pop or cut an abscess yourself. This can spread infection and make it worse.
Possible complications may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
A local anesthesia will be applied to your skin. This will make the area numb.
Most of the time, this procedure can be done in your doctor’s office. Large, deep abscesses, or abscesses in sensitive areas (eg, near the anus), may require treatment in the hospital.
The area will be wiped with a special cleansing fluid. Anesthesia will be applied. A small incision will be made. A syringe or catheter may be used to drain the pus from the abscess or the pus may be squeezed out. Gauze may be used to soak up the fluid. A clean water mixture will be used to flush the area.
A tool may be used to explore inside the cut. It can also help break down the abscess. A sample of the bacteria may be taken with a cotton swab for testing. Sometimes, the doctor will decide to pack the wound with clean gauze. This will help make sure the abscess does not form again. If this happens, you will come back in a day or two to remove or replace the packing. Gauze and dressing tape will be used to cover the wound.
No, the procedure should not hurt. You may feel a slight pinch and burning when the local anesthetic is injected.
Take the following steps to help ensure a smooth recovery when you return home after the procedure:
The skin should heal completely in about 14 days.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
of Family Physicians
Canadian Association of Wound Care
The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons
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University at Buffalo (The State University of New York). Abscess incision and drainage. University at Buffalo (The State University of New York) website. Available at: http://apps.med.buffalo.edu/procedures/abscess.asp?p=1 . Accessed December 11, 2012.
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 11/26/2012